by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Lee Smith writes for the Federalist about mainstream media complicity in Russia’s anti-American activities.
If the news business used to look like a pyramid, with the three TV network news channels at the apex supported by a base of hundreds of newspapers providing original reporting, the pyramid has now been turned upside down, with many more TV channels feeding off a drastically smaller and dramatically impoverished number of newspapers. Outfits like Fusion GPS make it possible for reporters to do a job that is increasingly difficult, especially if you report for TV—one of the few media sectors where journalists still get paid enough to feed their families, but where only a tiny percentage of resources are available for actual journalism.
This is not a knock against the work TV news producers and reporters do, which has its own rigors, and is still able to move public opinion while turning a profit. But from its beginnings, TV news, like Dilanian’s employers at NBC, depended on the hundreds of American newspapers that produced stories: local, national, and international. TV breaks news not primarily by contributing original reporting, but by airing interviews with important people that appear in newspapers the next day.
Put some makeup on Bashar al-Assad, for instance, and no matter how embarrassingly ingratiating and ill-informed the questions may be, the answers of a mass murderer will make news. The same holds for pop stars. …
… The inverted-pyramid of TV news and hard journalism—as opposed to people airing opinions or peddling partisan propaganda on social media—is one reason the Trump-Russia story has led the news for nine months now, in print and broadcast media: There just aren’t enough real stories to go around anymore. Thus, media organizations are likely to cluster around one story like a pack of stray dogs. The current state of journalism allows them little choice: You don’t dare let the competition get a leg up by ignoring a story like Trump-Russia. And since no one wants to kill the golden goose, everyone has to collaborate to keep the story alive—and no one dares call bullsh-t on anyone else’s story.